Microsoft patches 10 critical IE bugs

The fix for IE6 was finished last month, file date stamps show

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When Microsoft first warned customers of the memory corruption flaw in the "iepeers.dll" file, it said that attacks were aimed only at IE6 users, and that Protected Mode in IE7 would help protect users of that version. Protected Mode is a pseudo-sandbox that tries to keep attack code from escaping the browser to modify, add or delete data elsewhere on the PC.

Microsoft said nothing of that protection today, and rated the vulnerability as critical for both IE6 and IE7.

The bug had been reported to Microsoft by ADLab of VenusTech, a Chinese security firm based in Beijing, in mid-November 2009, Microsoft said today. "The vulnerability was responsibly reported to Microsoft & prior to active attacks surfacing in March 2010," said Jerry Bryant, a senior manager with the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC), in an e-mail. "We confirmed that it was exploitable on November 30. At that time, we continued to investigate the issue to identify the root cause, develop the update and enter into our extensive testing cycle."

According to the date stamps on the iepeers.dll files for the various browsers, Microsoft had completed the fix -- and passed it on to internal testing -- no later than Feb. 26 for IE6 and March 12 for IE7.

As Microsoft said both today and earlier, the iepeers.dll vulnerability does not affect IE8.

"I'm not surprised that Microsoft released the update," said Moore. "Working exploit code has consistently accelerated Microsoft's update process." As late as yesterday, other researchers had expressed surprise that Microsoft was able to craft a fix so quickly. "They focus on IE bugs more than anything else, because they are so high profile," said Moore.

"And Microsoft can actually fix things pretty quickly, within a week or two or three," he continued. "They generally address [bugs] quickly, but then hold off until its widely exploited. Otherwise, they wait until the next release."

MS10-018 can be downloaded and installed via the Microsoft Update and Windows Update services, as well as through Windows Server Update Services.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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